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Dogs, Fireworks and Fear

Summer is a great time of year for our dogs. They get to spend more time with their people as we vacation and more time outside with the longer evenings and pleasant weather. They even get to spend time with us as we celebrate different holidays over the summer months.

One holiday many dogs do not like is Canada Day (or the Fourth of July if you hail from the United States). With fireworks being a staple at so many celebrations, dogs can experience high anxiety as the explosions assault their confused senses. Fireworks are loud, so they often represent a threat to our dogs especially because they don’t understand the context. Even children can perceive fireworks as scary and threatening, but once we explain it to them, they usually delight in the display. Dogs don’t understand!

We know the fireworks are coming. How can we help our canine companions understand they are safe?

Know your dog. Until you know how they are going to react to fireworks, don’t expose them to it in an uncontrolled area. Many dogs are not scared of the big booms but don’t find out the hard way. You can work on desensitizing your dog by listening to fireworks sounds at a lower volume while providing positive reinforcement such as treats or attentive play. Over time, your dog may become accustomed to the sounds. Again, every dog is different, and some dogs will always be sensitive, especially when combined with all the other stimuli involved in this kind of party.

Avoid taking them to large celebrations. At first, it can seem like fun for a dog as they get to explore an area with lots of people and exciting new sights and smells. But your dog can become unpredictable and frightened when the fireworks start. Don’t put them in a position where they feel cornered by people and scared of the loud, unpredictable sounds. It can be a recipe for a disastrous encounter.

Provide them with a safe space. If you watch social media during times when fireworks (and thunderstorms) are prevalent, you will notice a sharp increase in lost and found dogs. Dogs escape from yards as they become frightened, and their fight or flight instincts kick in. By keeping them indoors in a space where they are safe and comfortable, it will reduce the volume of the noise. They will feel more protected than being out in the open space of a yard. Also, it will reduce the likelihood of an accident while they are on the run.

Like colicky babies and anxious adults, dogs often find comfort from a tight wrap or a weighted blanket or vest. There are many references on the internet for methods to wrap your dog that provides them with a sense of comfort.

Remember, your dog learns from you. If you or your kids get all excited and worked up from fireworks, this may agitate your pup. They will view fireworks as a cause for concern.

Enjoy summer with your dog – picnics, the beach, camping and hiking. But maybe when it comes to the fireworks, leave your good dog at home. It will make it more fun and safer for everyone!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet and their reaction to fireworks, please give us a call at 250.746.7178.

Written by: Prevost Veterinary Clinic

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